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NYFTLab connects "ground-breaking, women-led startups in retail technology" with global retail partners, an expert network, and investors over a 12 week program


New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFTLab) has announced Sparkbox will join its decennial cohort, which kicks off in March 2023. Sparkbox was selected by NYFTLab's major fashion and retail partners to participate in the program along with 5 other B2B retail tech startups.


Over the next 12 weeks, Sparkbox will explore commercial opportunities with NYFTLab's fashion and retail partners, which include Saks, Selfridges, TJX, Wolverine World Wide, Burberry, Levi Strauss & Co, LVMH, Macy’s, Richemont, Vera Bradley, Accenture and Fenwick & West LLP. In June, the cohort will present their technologies to retailers, brands, investors, and the press at the annual Tech Runway Demo Day in New York City.


NYFTLabs was co-founded and is produced by non-profit venture catalyst Springboard Enterprises. Over the last ten years, the lab has supported 75 innovative companies including DRESSX, EON, Obsess, Reflaunt, StyleSage, Trendalytics, VNTANA, Zeekit and more. The 2023 cohort includes startups delivering innovative technologies in pricing and inventory optimisation, digital fashion, UCG, AI-based personalisation, and blockchain-based assets. (Alter, Hue, Psykhe, Sociate, Tyb)


Lindsay Fisher, Co-founder at Sparkbox comments: "This program came highly recommended to us and we're so grateful for the opportunity to connect with new fashion and retail partners, the NYFTLab network, and a cohort of impressive retail tech startups and founders. We can't wait to share our vision for the future of merchandise planning across the pond."


Kay Koplovitz, Co-founder and Chairman of the board for the NYFTLab and Springboard Enterprises said: “We founded the NYFTLab with the goal of identifying some of the most innovative fashion technology entrepreneurs and connecting them directly to industry leaders to advance the retail landscape. This year’s cohort will undoubtedly add to the ongoing success of the initiative.”


For more information, please visit https://nyftlab.com/.


Follow Sparkbox for updates here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sparkboxai.


  • Writer's pictureSparkbox

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Tips from the team at Sparkbox on how to turn your merch skills into a new role in technology



Sparkbox is a technology company based in Manchester and London, we help merchandising teams make data-driven pricing and inventory decisions. In the last year, we’ve hired 4 amazing merchandisers for roles in product, customer success, and operations.


Thanks to @thismerchlife, we've connected with many talented candidates for these roles (thank you all for your interest!!). We've also spotted some individuals with great potential who could benefit from a few tweaks to their CV or interview, so we thought we would share a few tips to help the TML community make the leap from merch to tech.


We love to meet merchandisers who are as excited about technology as we are, and we hope this helps as you explore an exciting new career path! For news and updates on new roles from Sparkbox, join our mailing list or follow us on Linkedin.



(Keep in mind, this advice is limited to our experience and what we look for specifically at Sparkbox)




Craft a CV that stands out


  • Customise your CV for the role/ company. This is annoying but worth it, we can tell when candidates have made the effort. To make this easier:

    • Add a summary section to the top of your CV (3 bullet points) and just customise that part

    • Use the name of the company you are applying to – this always catches our attention: “Experience using systems like Sparkbox including X, Y”

  • If you are applying to a role with a tech company from a non-technical role, be sure to shout about ANY tech projects you have been involved with - as part of an implementation team, superuser, etc. Even experience as an end user affected by a new system is relevant – your good and bad experiences show a familiarity with what makes a tech project successful!

  • Highlight what you achieved in a role, rather than what you did in a role

    • Weak: “Managed a category with £20m annual turnover”

    • Strong: “Did X and Y to improve category sales +5% YOY and reduce average cover by 2 weeks”

  • Put your most recent experience at the top of your CV


Interviewing tips


  • Research the company. If you aren't looking, follow some companies that interest you - then when you're ready you'll have industry insights and talking points

  • Try to answer each question with an example. The “STAR method” is a good approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

  • If you mention any data skills or training, we will probably ask you how you applied that skill in your current role. We value application of the skill more than the accreditation

  • Don’t be afraid to mention skills you acquired outside of your core or current role (through part time or temporary jobs, or your interests outside of work)

  • Try to demonstrate your “unique selling points”, rather than core merch skills. Rather than talking about trade meetings and signoffs, tell us about how you identified a problem, improved a process, collaborated cross-functionally, or worked outside of your core role to deliver something interesting

  • Our best interviews tend to be conversational. Genuine questions in the middle of an interview can lead to great conversation!

  • We pay attention to the kinds of questions you ask about us. If your questions are limited, we wonder if you know enough about us to make a decision to join. Generally when interviewing with a growing technology company, it’s good to learn more about:

    • Their growth plans and expectations (geographically, industry expansion, headcount)

    • How they are funded (do they have investors, how much funding do they have before they need to raise money again?)

    • Who their customers are and what customers are in their pipeline (is the company demonstrably growing?)


What we look for


  • Resourcefulness / self-starters: examples of how you have taken initiative, owned a project or process, and delivered a result

  • Some level of experience with technology, a demonstration that you know how our customers might be feeling or what they might need to successfully adopt our software. What have you seen that has worked or hasn't worked with software you have used?

  • Demonstrated understanding of the career change you will be making. What are the pros and cons of moving to a smaller company/ a startup? Why not progress on a merch path?

  • Are you looking for any new job, or for this job in particular? This is most evident by your CV (is it customised?), but also have you followed us on Linkedin, etc

  • Willingness to get “stuck in” – especially when interviewing senior candidates, we want to understand your interest in and willingness to do what needs doing as we grow. Successful candidates have shown they want to do the job, then improve it, automate it, or train a junior to help. (Are you willing to pull your own reports?)

  • What will it be like to work with you? If you are joining an early-stage tech company, you’ll be an important part of a small team. The more of your personality you can share the better – what are your interests? What motivates you? What makes you unique and what will you add to our company culture?


Above all remember - as a merchandiser you've juggled tight deadlines, non-existent budgets, natural disasters, and more. Your skills are transferable and will be hugely valuable to most growing tech companies! Good luck!! We are currently collaborating with the University of Manchester to conduct some research on the state of merchandising following the pandemic. If you work in merchandising, we'd appreciate your contribution to our survey here. It takes 5 minutes and all responses are confidential. Results will be shared here in SS23!


For more information about Sparkbox, visit us at www.sparkbox.ai, join our mailing list or follow us on Linkedin.


Our co-founder Lindsay Fisher recently shared her thoughts on the future of retail and how technology will transform the high street with eTail Europe. Read on to find out why, when it comes to retail transformation, the team at Sparkbox is more excited about technologies in the “dataverse” than the metaverse.


 

The pandemic fundamentally changed how we think about and prioritise things in all aspects of our lives, including how we shop. During the pandemic, we watched as outdated high street giants like Topshop fell to online monoliths (ASOS purchased Topshop and Miss Selfridge in a £330m deal back in Feb 2021) after 2020’s lockdowns shifted demand online.


Even before the pandemic, the growth of online channels had a major effect on the high street. To lure customers back to physical spaces, some retailers doubled down on ‘experiential’ retail: Selfridges, for example, gave over major Oxford Street store space to a cinema in November 2019.



The Cinema at Selfridges.

Image source: https://uk.fashionnetwork.com/news/Selfridges-oxford-street-opens-permanent-cinema,1160885.html


Post-covid, the ‘experiential’ retail shift is happening online too: brands like Nike and Forever21 are building empires in the metaverse , while others are looking at cross-platform experiences that link influencers with in-store experiences and actual purchasing behaviour. Cross-platform synchronicity is already common in other countries, like in China where ‘Lipstick King’ Li Jiaqi, for example, has acquired more than 170 million followers across various live streaming platforms and once sold more than 15,000 lipsticks in just five minutes.


Pandemic aside, new technologies are enabling new business models and it’s interesting to examine which will last: exciting concepts in the metaverse, web3, and NFTs might still be fantastical for retailers in the UK, many of whom still struggle with warehousing even basic trading data.


Meanwhile, Buy Now Pay Later technology once paved a path to customer acquisition and increased average order value but has recently come under scrutiny and the threat of regulation. Rental schemes and circular models (consumer to consumer resale) provide hope for a more sustainable future of fashion but, including the impact of shipping and dry cleaning, it’s unclear that these models are truly sustainable. Businesses like The Handbag Clinic that focus on restoring our favourite items might strike the right balance in the re-wear revolution.



Ben and Charlotte Staerck, co-founders of the Handbag Clinic.

Image source: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/handbag-clinic-saviours-of-the-old-bags-9p2sjxkrn


By contrast Marketplace models are a high priority for many of Sparkbox’s clients, and an area we see growing quickly in the coming years. Third party partnerships between brands and platforms like Next, ASOS and The Very Group enable customers to discover and experience brands in their channel of choice. They also provide retailers with practical new opportunities to optimise assortments, reach new customers and clear stock more profitably.


Another factor influencing the technologies shaping our high street is consumer trust. ‘Generation TikTok’ has an increasing expectation of brand authenticity. To capture real value, online marketing must be backed by truthful claims and quality products. This push has even reached legislative levels, with the UK government currently looking at cracking down on fake reviews. Businesses who incentivise positive reviews could soon be fined up to 10% of their global turnover.


Brands that get authenticity right are able to build not only huge followings, but "fans" rather than "customers." This in turn cultivates brand loyalty, and big business. Companies like sustainable dungarees brand Lucy and Yak have grown quickly through building supportive online communities; meanwhile celebrity founded brands like Rihanna’s “Savage x Fenty” line or Kim Kardashian’s "Skims" regularly use TikTok or Instagram ‘reviews’ to boost new launches.


At Sparkbox we believe the technologies with the most potential to transform the high street are those in the “dataverse”, not the metaverse. Following a period of unpredictable trading during the pandemic, retailers and brands are prioritising cleaning up their data stacks to enable better use of data.


Decision intelligence for merchandising and supply chain processes is transforming the high street by helping retailers leverage their data to buy the right stock and make it available in right place, and at the right price.


Developments in integrating machine learning- based tech has made decision intelligence technology surprisingly quick and practical to implement, which means these projects can be quick wins and benefits-led. One of Sparkbox’s clients implemented our pricing optimisation solution to improve margin by 34% in just 34 days. Two years on, they continue to deploy Sparkbox’s demand forecasts in new and exciting ways across their business.


From the "dataverse" to the metaverse, many exciting technologies will transform the way we shop on the high street (and online) in the next 10 years. At Sparkbox we believe the most exciting changes might come from the most practical solutions; those that help increasingly busy merchandising and operations teams make data-driven decisions easily.



About Us


At Sparkbox we help busy merchandising teams make data-driven decisions quickly and confidently. We use machine learning to forecast demand, optimise pricing and channel allocations and recommend rebuy opportunities. Learn more about us here or get in touch!



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